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Portland Trail Blazers Weekend Preview & Predictions – 1/30

Saturday, January 30, 2016

 

The Portland Trail Blazers won their game against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, and now improbably hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference as of today. Will they hold on against the Kings and Utah Jazz, who are a mere three-tenths of a percentage point behind the Blazers?

That question won’t be answered until Tax Day, the way these teams are going. These next two games for Portland are winnable, and will go a long way towards determining whether this depleted, stripped-down version of the Trail Blazers will still be a playoff squad, despite the best efforts of Neil Olshey to tear the roster down.

All stats are courtesy of NBA.com and basketball-reference.com, and all games can be heard on the NEW radio partner of Oregon Sports News, AM 620 Rip City Radio!

Sunday, Jan. 31: vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves, 6:00 PM, CSNNW

The Skinny: The Wolves are chugging along in their rebuilding process. They have a couple legit young stars in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, and a mismatched collection of veterans and D-League level young talent.

I have to say that the team has adjusted well to Flip Saunders’ passing before the season. Flip was the leader of the franchise, and a void like that isn’t easily filled.

I’m not sure that void has been filled adequately, to be real honest. Sam Mitchell is teaching an outdated system of basketball as the coach; there was a reason he was an analyst for NBATV before Saunders hired him to be an assistant. He has Wiggins shooting contested midrange jumpers after dribbling for 10-15 seconds. That’s right out of 1995, which is also the last time Mitchell was an effective strategist.

Regardless of Mitchell’s failings as a coach, the roster itself is still a year or two away from playoff consideration, even with the West’s recent weakness. Another lottery pick that turns out to be a useful rotation player at least would help the Wolves tremendously, especially if said player allows them to move on from Ricky Rubio.

It might not be palatable for Minnesota to give up on Rubio, but when you’re a bad team, all avenues of improvement have to be considered--even if those paths take years to travel, and alienate some fans along the way.

Player To Watch: Damian Lillard. After getting snubbed for the All-Star team, expect Dame to make his displeasure known on the court. A terrible team like the Timberwolves would be prime pickings for a P.O.’ed star like Lillard.

Prediction: The Blazers are 2-0 so far against the Wolves this season. After taking care of business against an equally-terrible Los Angeles Lakers team last week, I expect the Blazers to continue letting the very bad teams know that Portland is still a cut above…even if the Blazers themselves occupy the middle ground that analysts like myself say is a living death in NBA terms.

Last week, I only got the Lakers game right. 

Trail Blazers’ Record: 21-26

Jared’s Picks Record: 22-25

Bro Counter: 14 before I owe him $40

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

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